Walleye fishing slowed on many Minnesota lakes in August — one exception being the lake where such angling is now off limits: Mille Lacs.
Such late-summer doldrums are to be expected, and won’t last. In fact, some of the best walleye fishing of the year, particularly for big fish, will occur in coming months, assuming the weather cooperates.
October can be especially good for outsized walleyes, with periods in September and November equally likely to produce these fish, particularly during nights when a full moon appears overhead.
Because moon phases are predictable, anglers in the know often schedule time off from work or otherwise make themselves available during full moon phases in October, and also, if possible, in September and November.
All good walleye lakes can produce fish during these times, assuming the fall weather — neither too windy, nor too cold — allows anglers access to these lakes at night, and assuming as well the sky is cloudless, or fairly so, allowing the full moon to show itself.
Devotees of walleye fishing during these times most often troll crankbaits in fairly shallow water, say 6 to 16 feet, particularly over rocks or gravel, or on break lines. Minnow-style baits are the preferred choice, but in my experience other shapes, such as Shad Raps, also produce.
Don’t be afraid to use big baits. This is one time when bigger baits can mean bigger fish. Line-counter reels also come in handy to help determine depths baits are running and their distances from the boat.
And if one boat speed doesn’t produce, try another.
Another important consideration is bait color. Or, rather, shade of color. Choose dark over light. This allows walleyes rising from below to see the silhouette of the bait against the (relatively) bright night sky, thus triggering strikes.
Though trolling is the preferred technique of fall full-moon walleye anglers, casting also works. In fact, I prefer it — again, assuming the weather is accommodating enough to allow for casting and retrieving without rod guides, or fingers, freezing up.
Theories abound why some fish caught at this time are disproportionately large. Whatever the reason, it happens often enough each fall — including on the few days leading up to the appearance of a full moon — to be predictable.
Finally, if you’re thinking full-moon walleyes nibble around the edges of baits before eating, forget it. Expect in many cases savage strikes, followed by the trademark deep-soundings of fish intent on staying in the water and out of your boat.